GENERAL SANTOS CITY, July 2, 2014 – The transition proper period of the Bangsamoro for proper transition is getting shorter, so implies a report of The Philippine Star (June 29: Passage of Bangsamoro Law seen by early 2015). Worse! It can shorten to insignificance, irrelevance or nothingness if judged from other late reports and official statements from the Palace and MILF.
May we restate for the nth time: Transition is life or death to Bangsamoro. Properly done, it’s boom; improperly, bust and doom! Time is most crucial to transition.
What does the Star report reveal?
Senate President Franklin Drilon, on the assurance of the President that the Bangsamoro Basic Law draft would be submitted to the Congress on July 28, is confident the law will be passed in the first quarter of 2015 although they will try to pass it in December 2014, the original target. The target had to be set back because of the Palace’s failure to submit the draft last May 5.
HeDrilon said the plebiscite could be done shortly after the law had been approved by the Congress or in the second quarter of 2015. He dismissed the apprehension that the Commission on Elections will not be able to conduct the plebiscite because of the 1916 national elections.
How does this impact on the transition proper?
The President, the Palace and the Peace Process Office have said repeatedly that the election of the regular officials of the Bangsamoro will be in 2016 together with the national elections and its inauguration before June 30, 2016. The President stated this last June 24 when he addressed the International Conference on Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao in Hiroshima, Japan. During the same event, Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, in her own speech, mentioned a “short transition” for Bangsamoro before the election.
This is the fact: The Aquino III government is most concerned of the sufficiency of time for the election, not for the transition proper or proper transition. That is borne out by their many official and press statements.
The election season starts on January 2016. The real proper transition period ends in December 2015. If the promulgation of the BBL is pushed to the second quarter of 2015, that leaves six months for the transition proper starting with the creation of the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) and the appointment of its members to administer the transition. What kind of transition can be done in six months?
But, wait! Will transition work happen on Day One after the promulgation of the BBL? The creation and organization of the BTA is not transition work and it cannot be done in one day. Transition work will not happen right after the BTA members have taken their oath. They are not officers-in-charge who will just take over already established offices. They have to set up new offices for the ministerial form of government. Even after the establishment of the rules and mechanisms for these offices, transition work cannot start. There will be orientation first.
Here’s the stunner! The BTA members have to undergo orientation on the ministerial form of government. Six months, perhaps, will not be enough for the creation and organization of the BTA, the orientation of the BTA members, the organization of the ministerial government and the orientation of the officials and employees after setting up the offices. No real transition work may happen before the inauguration of the Bangsamoro.
What ideas do the Palace and Secretary Deles have about the transition?
Take it from the MILF. The BTA will have five daunting tasks to do when it formally assumes power in 2015. Within the one year transition, the BTA has to set up institutions, write the local government code, the administrative code, and the election code for the Bangsamoro. More importantly, it has to provide leadership and unify the Bangsamoro people and rally them towards the vision set forth more than 40 years ago by the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim.(From: Luwaran Editorial, March 16, 2914: ‘No rocky hill for an iron will’)
Will one year be enough? Originally, MILF set six years for the transition proper (interim) after a one-year pre-transition (pre-interim) period. Chairman Murad Ibrahim agreed to shorten the transition period to three years.
What “short transition” is the good Secretary Deles talking about?Obviously, they are talking about the offices of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao vacated as provided in the BBL which are to be run by OICs (officers-in-charge) – the BTA members – until Bangsamoro, the new name of the ARMM, is inaugurated.
May the short six-month period be shortened further?
There is no assurance it will not. In fact, like Lady Macbeth’s candles, the six months can burn out to nothingness or irrelevance.
First, Drilon’s confidence of passing the BBL in the first quarter of 2015 is just a “best-effort” assurance. Some forces in the Congress beyond the control of the leadership can slow down the proceedings.
Second, once the draft becomes a public document upon its submission to the Congress, some individuals or groups can question the draft in the Supreme Court; or, if not the draft, the law itself once passed.
Third, the Office of the President may fail to submit to the Congress the certified draft on July 28 despite the assurance of the President. Is this possible?
The MILF is rejecting the revisions on the BBL draft done by the OP legal team. Chairman Murad and his chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal raised their concerns to the President in Hiroshima without disclosing details. But Iqbal disclosed some details in his speech — Current State of Peace Negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Morro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — during the peace forum in Istanbul, Turkey last June 29.
The revisions, he said, are such that rounds of talks may be needed – with the intervention of the Malaysian facilitator and the other international groups that have assisted in the negotiations in order to thresh out the MILF objections. Igbal called the revisions “rejections” of the BTC’s draft and MILF is “rejecting the rejections”. This can take time.
He said the challenges ahead [are apparently] daunting” and called for the “timely rescue” of the peace process and the prevention of “the foreseeable collision of approaches of the two parties”. If this is not done, he predicted: “The direct consequence would be that the BBL will not be submitted to Congress on July 28, in time for the State-of-the Nation Address (SONA) in Congress of President Aquino, or the government would proceed to submit the BBL without the concurrence of the MILF.”(Emphasis supplied)
From six years the transition period shrank to three. The negotiation on the Annexes further shrank the time to nine months. The review and revision of the BBL draft by the OP legal team will further shrink the time to six months. There are forces that can snag the legislation process or can abort the BBL.
The rejection by the MILF of the revisions on the BBL draft is the enigma to watch until July 28. If MILF is serious – not just posturing – there may be no transition to worry about.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at [email protected].]